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Bridging the Digital Divide

Bridging the Digital Divide

When UK schools were closed in March, and again in January, pupils at The Leys were lucky to have access to IT equipment enabling them to continue learning remotely.

However, not all children were as fortunate, with many schools reporting a shortage of devices to help their pupils access online learning. Indeed, just 5% of teachers in state schools reported that all their students had access to an appropriate device for remote learning at the start of the January lockdown.* 52% of teachers cited faster rollout of laptops as the single most helpful possible intervention to improve home learning, and many have turned to sourcing equipment themselves as government-provided equipment has yet to arrive. This January, The Leys has been working with primary schools and local charities to help them bridge the technological divide through a combination of iPad donations and grants for computer purchases.

One iPad donation was made to Stoneyholme Community Primary School in Burnley, thanks to a chance comment in a family chat on Zoom. Stoneyholme serves a community in the top 1% of deprivation nationally, and access to devices has been a huge barrier to learning. When a team member from our IT Department heard his stepdad say how a local school was struggling for IT equipment, he investigated whether The Leys would be able to help. The IT Department and Geoffrey Howe, Director of Teaching & Learning, worked to arrange a donation of 30 iPads to ensure all Stoneyholme pupils had one. In the words of the Headteacher Lisa Davison, ‘I cannot begin to tell you the impact this will have, not just academically, but emotionally, for a significant number of our children and families and will enable teachers to deliver the outstanding learning all of our children (and adults through the online adult education we also deliver) deserve.’

Two local charities both received donations of iPads for families they had identified in need, as well as financial grants for the purchase of Chromebooks. The Red Hen Project supports children and their families to overcome barriers to learning, while the Red Balloon Learner Centre offers alternative provision to schools, enabling young people to re-engage with education. Existing connections between The Leys and the charities ensured that the precise needs of the families the charities serve were met. Red Balloon told us that with their complete timetable of online learning, this grant would help ensure all their learners can participate fully.

These grants were enabled by The Community Fund, a new initiative between The Leys & St Faith’s Schools Foundation and Wesley’s Chapel & Leysian Mission funded by donations from our Leysian Community. One of the principal aims of the Fund is to reduce barriers to learning – an ambition that has never been more important, with the education and life chances of the poorest young people hit hardest during the pandemic.

As the lockdown continues, The Leys team will continue to look for ways to support the local community, schools and charities.

The Community Fund remains open for applications from local groups and charities.


* Sutton Trust, Learning in Lockdown, January 2021